By Jason Menard
“I’d rather have your sister.”
That’s it. Those five words (well, maybe five-and-a-half or six, depending on your view of contractions) were all it took to spark a sporting phenomenon that has spilled into popular culture!
You know what I’m talking about. I mean, if I say, ‘Hey, that guy was just Zidaned,’ you’ll get the reference.
Yes, Marco Materazzi finally came clean with the comment that set off France’s greatest player, tarnished a legacy, and probably contributed to the death of France’s World Cup aspirations. In a brief exchange, France’s Zinedine Zidane, frustrated with Materazzi’s apparent holding of his shirt said, “If you want, I’ll give you the jersey later.” To which Materazzi replied, “I’d rather have your sister.”
Boom. Head butt, red card, dashed hopes, and weeks of hand-wringing ensued. All for a playground-esque crack not worthy of a reaction, not to mention retaliation. One could only imagine what would have happened if Materazzi had broken out the “your mother wears army boots” crack – the bloodshed would have been intolerable.
Honestly, weren’t we all just hoping for a little more? Something meaty that would have justified the comments. Through an interpretation of Zidane’s reaction, I had expected that Materazzi had said something racist, profoundly repulsive, or some combination of the sorts, including the exhortation to perform some sort of physically impossible and self-mutilating feat.
But no. An affront to the honour of Zidane’s sister that could have been penned by a six-year-old child was enough to cause the to-that-time feel-good story of the World Cup to snap.
Now let’s be fair. Maybe that was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. Of course, given the nature of the insult, it has to be looked at as the curly, crazy straw that broke the camel’s back, but nonetheless. Maybe that was just one too many comments during a long and storied career. Maybe Materazzi just caught Zidane at the wrong time of day. Maybe Zinedine ate a bad burrito the night before and it just wasn’t sitting right.
But a head butt? For that comment? If Zidane’s legacy wasn’t tarnished before, it should be now. After all, let’s realize that not only did Zidane’s overreaction to such a mindlessly stupid comment cost him his participation in the greatest game on the sports’ greatest stage, but it can be argued that he may have scored a penalty kick that would have brought the World Cup trophy to Paris. It’s all hypothetical, as his continued presence may have meant nothing in the end and the Italian team would have won regardless, but we’ll never know – and the effects of his absence, both psychologically and physically, had to have an impact on the French squad.
Let me state that I’m not a proponent of colouring a player’s entire career based upon on negative event. People have a right to make mistakes, just as they have a right to redemption. But dashing a nation’s cherished football hopes because of a stupid comment about one’s sister? If anything, Materazzi should have been embarrassed that he couldn’t have come up with something better, instead of Zidane taking such great offense.
But here we are. And now an event that should never have happened is back in the news. People will debate whether Zidane was overreacting or protecting the honour of his sister. They will discuss the sportsmanship of trash talk and where its place is in the game. And no one will mention that similar acts of provocation will take place each and every day on schoolyards around the world. Only most kids will come up with a witty retort, not try to drive their skull through their protagonists’ chest.
The people I feel sorry for most now are the principals of our nation’s schools. I mean, how are they to keep order on the playground when a player of Zidane’s status can react in such a manner for such a minor provocation? In fact does this mean that getting “Zidaned” will become the next issue in the fight against bullying?
And just remember if you see Zidane in the street sometime, make sure you keep your kids away from him. After all, one little playground slip and he may snap.
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